DAVIE — Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard lit up Tennessee Titans running back on a memorable play in the first quarter on Sunday.
Murray was running to his left when the second-year Howard, just before the sideline, lowered his left shoulder and flattened the running back hard to the ground and out of bounds.
“That set the tone of the game,” Howard said Wednesday.
It turns out a pre-game interaction Howard says involved Murray, himself and Miami safety Reshad Jones, provided extra motivation.
“Early on, during the warmup, DeMarco Murray came by and me and Reshad (Jones) were right there,” Howard said. “And he said, ‘Hey number 20, this is going to be easy.'”
Howard, who said he is “physically stronger” in his second season, claimed to be angered.
“(Murray) turned us up after that,” Howard said. “That’s the one I caught him on the sideline. That’s all I thought about when I saw him coming outside.”
Howard proved as a rookie to be a willing and physical tackler. He laid the wood in this game, despite missing some practice time with a shoulder injury.
Before the season began, Miami defensive coordinator Matt Burke spoke of Howard’s improvements.
“He’s physical, he’s putting his hands on guys,” Burke said. “We drafted him for a reason and the athletic ability he has. He spent a lot of time in the offseason just working on technique, the stuff he didn’t get as a rookie because he was hurt this time last year and then we kind of threw him into the fire… His technique is just … it’s been impeccable.”
Howard was the 11th-best corner in the NFL this week, according to Pro Football Focus, allowing only two receptions for 14 yards.
The Dolphins allowed 235 rushing yards to the Titans in a 2016 loss.
Miami won on Sunday, allowing only 69 rushing yards, including 58 by Murray.
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